15 Idioms for Periods of Time

A body of idiomatic words and expressions vividly denote brief periods of time or otherwise refer to various durations. Here’s a sampling of such terms. 1. After hours: In the evening or at night, or late in the day (referring to standard daytime hours that most businesses are open) 2. Banker’s hours: A relatively short … Read more

People vs. Persons

What’s the difference between people and persons? The fast-and-loose answer is that people is correct and persons is wrong; the former word has supplanted the latter as the plural form of person. At one time, the distinction between the terms was that people is a mass noun referring to an undetermined number of humans (“I’ve … Read more

The Return of the Dangling Modifiers

Like the compositional equivalent of lurching zombies, dangling modifiers insistently, incessantly assault the sensibilities of careful writers (and careful readers). I’ve posted several sets of examples of these misbegotten misconstructions in which an erroneously constructed sentence subject is at odds with the modifying phrase that precedes it, but they keep on coming. Here, in honor … Read more

50 Slang Terms for Money

I find very little about money to be interesting, other than counting my own, but I’ve noted that there’s a rich fund of slang terms for money that can help enliven both casual and more serious content about currency and finance. Here’s a roster of slang synonyms in plural form for words for US currency … Read more

November Is the Write Time

Writing is one of the loneliest pursuits (or professions), and as I know as well as anyone, enthusiasm for expressing oneself is tempered by the daunting challenge of actually doing it. For those of us for whom having written a novel is a more appealing prospect than, you know, actually writing it, National Novel Writing … Read more

Connotations of 35 Words for Funny People

Fun and folly are endemic elements of human nature, and the English language abounds with words to label people who inspire laughter, whether light-hearted or lacerating and whether intentional or otherwise. Here are terms describing funny and/or foolish individuals or characters. 1. Antic: now mostly confined to refer in plural noun form to humorous or … Read more

How to Write a Summary

In scholastic and professional settings alike, you are likely to be asked to compose a summary of an article, essay, paper, report, or other document. Take the following steps to produce an effective outline. Read the source content, and divide it into sections according to headings and subheadings or other delineation. For each section, highlight … Read more

Who Is in Charge of Language?

Who invented the English language, and to which mental institution was that person thereafter committed (or from which did the culprit escape)? More to the point, who regulates language, and why, as demonstrated in any one of countless exhibits of spoken and written discourse, are they doing such as poor job of it? How do … Read more

Barbaric vs. Barbarous

What’s the difference between barbaric and barbarous? The terms are nearly interchangeable, though for two connotations, one term is preferred over the other. Barbaric or barbarous behavior or other characteristics are those that suggest a cultural attainment between savagery and civilization. These adjectives also refer to unrestrained actions or those a civilized person would consider … Read more

Book Review: “Robert Hartwell Fiske’s Dictionary of Unendurable English”

Distinguishing between the many guides for writers and speakers of the English language may appear difficult at first glance, but on closer examination of bookstore and library shelves, one at least, Robert Hartwell Fiske’s Dictionary of Unendurable English, is notable for the courage of its convictions. The exemplar of this category of resources for writers, … Read more

5 Terrible Tattoo Typos

It’s one thing to introduce a spelling or punctuation error when icing a message on a birthday cake or a similar confection — such mistakes are easily disposed of — but when it comes to getting a tattoo, think before you ink, because it’s difficult to render a correction. These tattoo typos are the responsibility … Read more

How Long Should a Paragraph Be?

A paragraph should consist of six to seven sentences. No, it should be no longer than three sentences long. Actually, it should include a topic sentence, several supporting sentences, and possibly a concluding sentence. Sigh. Can I end this paragraph yet? All three of the declarations in the previous paragraph (the first pair of which … Read more